Preparing Plants For Cold
Radiation Frost vs. Advection Frost
Like hurricanes, every cold event has a different ‘personality’. However preparing plants for cold weather doesn’t have to be tricky. When speaking of cold damage, there are two basic kinds. Frost damage occurs during windless, clear nights when heat escapes and ice forms on exposed plants, usually before or at sunrise, when temperatures approach mid to low thirties. This is known as a Radiation Frost and damage can be avoided by covering sensitive plants. Advection frost refers to very cold air and can cause far more extensive damage, depending on temperature and duration, notoriously named Hard Freezes.
Cold Weather Watering
One of the best ways to preparing plants for cold weather and reduce damage to plantings is to ensure the soil is adequately irrigated. Water generously a few days before a cold event. As cold, dry air envelops your landscape, moisture from the soil evaporates, releasing ambient heat, which is especially important during conditions when frost can form in frigid windless air. Do not water during cold weather, foilage should always remain dry during these conditions. Please know of advancing cold air masses and, by all means, turn off all automatic irrigation during severe cold spells.
Covering your Plants
You may choose to cover your prized plantings that are not densely planted or do not have natural cover. You may opt to use sheets or blankets that you have on hand or purchase frost cloth from a garden center. Never use plastic as a cover as this will result in severe damage in the morning once the sun comes out; it only takes a few seconds of sunshine to effectively cook plants covered in plastic.
Use Forgiving Plants
Most tropical plants commonly used in Florida landscapes are very forgiving. Although they may become damaged during frosts, most are quick to sprout and resume growth in early spring. Since frost affects the topmost area of foliage, refrain from trimming any dead plant material until the middle of March; this damaged layer serves as a protective layer from future frosts.
Some of the worst choices include:
Adoninia or Chistmas Palm ( Adoninia merrilii )
Triostar ( Stromanthe x ‘Tristar’ )
Polly ( Alocasia amazonica ‘Polly’ )
Black Ebony Vase ( Aechmea chantinii )
Zebra Plant ( Aphelandra squarrosa )
10 Cold Weather Preparation Tips
- Monitor for cold weather events.
- Ensure adequate mulch levels.
- Thouroughly irrigate or water a few days prior to the event.
- Bypass automatic irrigation system cycles for the duration of the cold event.
- Quilt any tender plantings just prior to the beginning of the event.
- Move any potted plants to a protected location such as garage or at least heavily quilt these items including insulating the pot itself.
- Turn on any landscape lighting and or Holiday decorative lighting during the coldest hours of the cold event. It has been demonstrated that the heat produced from such lighting will provide an additional 2 to 4 degrees fahrenheit protection.
- Remove quilting as soon as the cold event is over.
- Return potted plantings to their appropriate location as soon as the cold event is over.
- Leave any damaged plant foliage intact until mid-March for additional protection.
- Monitor for the next cold event.
Unsure of Preparing Plants for Cold Weather Techniques?
If you are unsure of preparing plants for cold weather, you may choose to schedule a review of your landscape with the professionals from Beautiful Boundaries Lawn and Landscaping. We will go over your landscape plantings with you, indicating which specie may need additional cold protection such as quilting, discuss your watering needs, and indicating any replacements or additions to your landscape in areas that you may not find appealing.